|Cruel to Be Kind
Author: Nietzsche's Itch PM
Seto and Anzu meet in a lawyer's office several years later, and find they have more in common than they did before. AzureshippingRated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Seto K. & Anzu M. - Words: 2,938 - Reviews: 17 - Favs: 28 - Follows: 9 - Published: 10-08-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6383725
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh!
Summary: Seto and Anzu meet in a lawyer's office several years later, and find they have more in common than they did before.
He did not want to be here. And if anyone was in the room to take note of his stiff profile, expensive and impeccably polished shoes impatiently tapping out an ominous rhythm on the floor, immaculately tailored suit, thunderous expression and slitted lapis glare to complete the picture of murderous intent, they likely wouldn't have stuck around long enough to make the observation, lest his tangible fury be refocused to a new target, them.
Kaiba snarled quietly, giving silent thanks for the emptiness of the seating area in which he waited, tersely for his appointment to start. He hated these places, where his mere presence was enough to spark scandal and rumour. In fact, despite the pronounced absence of any other sentient life form in the room besides the aquarium that lined the opposite wall, he was certain that tomorrows tabloids would sport a front page feature involving him in a sex scandal, revelations that Yugi had put a restraining order on him (as if he would) or something equally provocative. And then he would be back where he started, here.
A lawsuit had been levelled against KaibaCorp, one of many, to the effect that the new series of duel disks were defective and had been reported to have been ineffective in real life duels. This was preposterous, of course, as happened with the release of any new technology, there would always be a few who would sabotage their own purchase in hopes of greater compensation, or even those that unknowingly tried to play the cards in a way that violated the code of principles the disk ran on. And then he would forced to spend an exorbitant sum, not that he couldn't afford it, but still, defending his and his company's reputation.
He liked to watch their horrified expressions when they realized that all they had achieved in challenging him was adding to his vast fortune, as his very well paid lawyer crushed them, and forced them to pay out to him for the inconvenience caused. Revenge is a dish best served cold, and cold hard cash was a garnish he favoured.
And that's what would happen today. He would provide the cash, and the other would do the rest while he watched on in satisfaction. He was smirking faintly at this when the door opened and his scowl returned. He had wanted to be alone. The interloper wasn't anyone he might have expected, once he got over the fact that they didn't look anything like what he would have expected.
Because Anzu Mazaki was in the building. And Yugi's little cheerleader was all grown up, in more ways than one.
She hadn't noticed him yet, immersed in her perusal of the dainty handbag she held, rifling through it for something he didn't care to learn, and this gave him a chance to observe her. He hadn't seen her since the last tournament that Yugi had entered before he bowed out of the public arena, claiming it wasn't fair to the newer duellists for him to keep winning tournaments and that it was time for new champions to take the stage.
Her hair had grown, and now reached her mid back, dyed a darker shade than it had been originally, though still brunette. She wore impressively high shoes, but he believed she'd grown an inch or so since high school too. Clad in a dove grey business suit that managed to look professional and, he thought somewhat chagrined, far more attractive than the revealing tank top and shorts of her youth had done.
All that was left was her face, obscured by the curtain of her hair. At that moment, as if feeling his gaze on her, her head snapped up.
He met her gaze levelly, refusing to be embarrassed at having been caught staring. She smiled unexpectedly, although it was more of a smirk in the style he himself favoured, holding the promise of a swift demise if you made one wrong move around her. He applauded her mentally, whilst keeping his outward facade of dispassionate calm intact, having attained some skill in intimidation. A lesser man might have looked away at the steel in her blue eyes, so like his own, but indeed most men were lesser to him.
"What a surprise, meeting you here, Kaiba-san," she greeted coolly, perching herself elegantly on the chair beside him.
"Same to you Mazaki-san," he said deliberately, playing along with her charade of courtesy. They had screamed themselves hoarse at each other in the past, and he was curious to see how long it would be until he infuriated her enough to induce the reaction again. Or until she made him lose his temper. It was a game, like everything else.
She didn't reply immediately, extracting a sheaf of envelopes that appeared to contain some documentation, from what he could garner from looking out of the corner of his eye at her.
"How is your company doing these days?" she asked politely. He almost frowned, having thought that she would enquire after Mokuba first, but she seemed determined to keep their little tête-à-tête impersonal and confined to trivial repartee.
What a departure from the do-gooder girl who had made it her mission in life to help those around her in any way she could, even if they didn't want her to.
Kaiba smirked. "It's doing exceedingly well, KaibaCorp is still the unrivalled giant of gaming technology development," he replied snidely, as if she should have known this already, with friends like hers.
"That's wonderful, I hope it continues to be so" she said serenely, clasping her hands in her lap and turning her attentions to a painting occupying the opposite wall. He resisted the urge to let his jaw fall open in incredulity, which was something that only mutts with no self-control did. Instead he decided to ask a question he knew would garner a response.
He cleared his throat. "How are your friends?" he asked, trying to keep the disdain in his tone to a minimum. If Mokuba was his button that shouldn't be pressed, her friends were hers, and he wasn't about to have her clam up on him before things got interesting.
"They're all good. Tristan and Ryou just graduated. Tristanis going to be a football coach and Ryou will follow his father into archaeology. Serenity is training to become a doctor. Duke is still expanding his line of stores due to the popularity of his game, Mai and Joey are both involved in professional duelling, as are Yugi and Atem, but I'm sure you already knew about that, right?" she asked sweetly. He grimaced slightly, unpleasantly reminded of the undersized irritant that had proven not to be a figment of Yugi's hormone driven imagination after all.
He chuckled after a moment, deceptively calm. "Of course, its my business to know these things," he said casually, though neither of them were fooled by it. He saw her eyes flicker towards the clock on the wall, and wondered idly why the perpetually good girl needed legal advice.
"As does Mokuba, as the vice president of the company," he added, watching her closely.
"I know, I was delighted to learn from him that he'd been given equal partnership," she said, smiling genuinely now, though still not looking directly at him.
"You...knew?" he asked, slightly confused.
She smiled easily. "I meet Mokuba periodically, we frequent some of the same eateries and social hotspots," she explained, only adding to his discomfiture. He should have known this, even if he had stopped monitoring his brothers every movement some years before, yielding to the younger ones request that he be allowed to stand on his own two feet, and that he try to live his own life that he'd missed out on after raising him. At least this explained why she hadn't asked after him in the beginning of the conversation.
"He seems happy," she said pleasantly. He swallowed with some difficulty, knowing that after all they had gone through, his little brother was finally just that, happy.
"I would hope that he is," he said evenly. She turned back to him, and her glacial countenance thawed just a shade.
Mazaki looked knowingly at him. "He is." she said reassuringly, without being asked and he found himself believing her. She had always been kind to Mokuba, even when he himself scorned her, and he saw no reason to doubt her sincerity now. Perhaps he could afford to be a little more solicitous than he normally allowed himself to be. She had earned it.
"What about you Mazaki-san? Did you achieve your goal of studying dance?" he asked her, considering the athletic physique that the proper clothing couldn't quite conceal. And the long legs that a small, traitorous part of him was noting she hadn't concealed.
"Yes, I did. I attended Julliard and graduated at the top of my year. I became a senior dancer after a few years and became successful enough that I had a choice of which offers I wished to accept. Now. as well as dancing myself, I work with the Tokyo branch of the Japanese Dance Association, and I'm involved in putting together groups for various events, dance troupes for weddings, celebrity parties, backing dancers for concerts, visits from politically influential figures, as well as aiding in the cultural exchange program, where we endeavour to send some of our dancers abroad and the participating country sends theirs and we attempt to learn from the other. I enjoy it, it's challenging but the job satisfaction is incomparable," she finished, glowing with pride and accomplishment.
He was impressed, he had to admit. She had achieved everything she set out to do and then some. Much like he had himself, and he had to admire someone whose ambition equalled his own, even if it was in a different field that he held little appreciation for. Ambition was a trait that could be employed anywhere.
He had stopped scowling by then, but he couldn't being himself to smile. "I'm pleased that everything turned out the way you wanted it," he said slightly awkwardly, as he had never been known for his civility with regards to her or her friends, and didn't know what to say that wouldn't reek of insincerity. Sometimes having his brother as the only one who could read between the lines of what he was saying and what he wasn't was more a bother than an ease. It made for stilted conversation at the best of times.
Thankfully, years of experience with him seemed to have given her some pointers of how to read him too, because she just inclined her head in acknowledgement. He wasn't curious by nature, preferring to know what he needed to know and not fill his head with useless information that he would never find a use for, but something drove him to keep speaking.
"Are you married?" the words were out before he had thought them through, and he silently cursed himself for getting so far out of character that he had asked someone else about their personal life. And it might well have been the end of their game of wordplay, if the way she went suddenly rigid was indicative of anything.
"I am married, yes," and the ice in her tone would rivalled his own in a bad mood "and I hope to be unmarried again as soon as possible," she continued, sneering. He was taken aback by her words, and her abrupt change in demeanour.
Composing himself, he tentatively took the bull by the horns. "Is that why you're here?" he asked vaguely, trying not to ask for any more information than she was willing to give. Divorce was always unpleasant, and messy, but at its worst it was a vicious battle that had no clear victor. And evidently this had not been an amicable split. He would have to tread carefully from here on.
"It is, my spouse has altered his demands to include some items of sentimental value that never belonged to him to spite me, and I'm not about to let him have them," she snarled. He smirked, looking her over approvingly. She had certainly grown a backbone, and she rose another few notches in his estimation of her worth.
Anzu turned to him then. "Would you mind lending an ear to hear the rest, or have I bored you enough?" she asked, and he could see that she wanted to get it off her chest. He motioned acquiescently for her to continue. He knew that if he didn't allow her to speak, he would just find the information through another medium later, because she had aroused his curiosity.
"As long as you don't ask me to be a shoulder to cry on, this suit is dry-clean only," he quipped, enjoying the reluctant grin that flashed across her face for a moment before becoming sombre again.
"He's a choreographer, and he was one of my mentors when I was training. He's been in the industry for a lot longer than I have, and I think he may have resented that I rose through the ranks so quickly," she confessed.
He snorted in quiet derision. "A lack of ambition is only to blame for a lack of success," he said pitilessly. She smiled wanly.
"Maybe so. Anyway, by the time we married I was already making more than he was, I even bought my own ring," she said, shaking her head in faint disgust. He stopped himself from doing the same. What kind of a man made his bride pay for her own ring?
"It was fine for a while, I got used to being the big earner, and I tried not to throw my success in his face, I didn't want to injure his pride after all," she said sarcastically. He smirked at that.
Her lip curled. "Three years like this, in a supposedly stable and happy marriage, and one day I arrive home early to find him in our bed with one of my barely legal students," she said frostily, and his eyes widened.
"He made all kinds of excuses, it wasn't what it looked like, drunkenness when that failed and finally his litany of grievances that I, as his wife had failed to live up to," she said bitterly. He laughed scornfully.
"Please tell me you don't believe any of that," he said disdainfully. Her eyes flickered to him, holding disbelief, and something unfamiliar.
"You disagree that my being a worthless wife is what led him to stray then?" she asked dryly, though he could see her confidence had taken a knock.
"It sounds like he was the worthless one if he couldn't see what an asset you are," he sniffed, and a slow smile blossomed across her face.
She laughed suddenly. "You know, I guess it isn't all bad that I had to come here today."
"And why is that?" he asked, humouring her. No matter how much she might have grown up, she was surely still harbouring some vestiges of inanity from overexposure to the mutt for all those years.
"I found out that you can be nice, sometimes," she said brightly, and he almost smiled back at her, but caught himself in time. It wouldn't do for him to destroy his fearsome reputation in one fell swoop after all, not after all this time spent cultivating and perfecting it.
"I'm not nice Mazaki-san," he said contemptuously. She grinned mischievously, eyes sparkling, clearly not fooled. He wondered when he had become so transparent.
She grinned. "I disagree. But if not nice, then how about kind?" she shot back. The intercom crackled and called her at that moment, and she rose. Against his will, he rose with her, and they found themselves standing a hairs breath away from each other.
"I guess I'll see you around," she said by way of farewell. What else did you say to someone you hadn't met in years, hadn't liked very much back then, and just had a surprisingly pleasant conversation with?
"How about evening the odds of that?" he asked suddenly. She blinked at him in confusion as what he had said sunk in, and she slowly reached into her bag to locate something she could write on, hoping she hadn't misinterpreted his intent. He didn't say anything as she quickly scribbled something down on a piece of paper, and he took it from her hand without hesitation when she offered it to him. Without another word, she walked away down the corridor, leaving him with her cell phone number and a banquet's worth of food for thought.
'Kind, me? I take it back Mazaki, you're as crazy as the rest of your friends, but maybe normal isn't all its meant to be either, I should know' he thought as he strode assuredly to his lawyers office as he was called.
His fingers curled around the note in his pocket, and he smirked. Maybe he would call her.